Bike buyers getting older, spending more money, says J.D. Power & Associates

The J.D. Power and Associates (JDPA) Motorcycle Competitive Information Study (MCIS) is now in its sixth year, having started in 1998. These impartial studies have revealed some interesting facts about our industry from the perspective of new-bike buyers and because the study has now been around long enough to establish a track record, in this issue of Powersports Business we’ll concentrate on the demographics, and how — or if — they’ve changed over the span of 1998 through 2003.

As it has from the beginning (but unlike other industries), the players in the motorcycle industry have not yet consented to allow that the results and rankings of the MCIS be made public. And because the manufcturers are the main purchasers of the study, their intentions carry a lot of weight. Therefore, you will not see any ads or figures as to who “won” the top JDPA consumer motorcycle rankings as a result of this study, and that’s a shame. We hope that, someday, the industry will consent to have these figures made public.

How the Survey was Conducted

The 2003 MCIS questionnaires included 49 often multi-part questions about the motorcycles, plus eight about helmets and 10 demographic questions. Questionnaires were mailed in October of 2003, to [number] new motorcycle owners who had purchased a new street or dual-sport motorcycle between September of 2002 through May of 2003. Names were selected at random by J.D. Power and Associates from lists furnished by each of the manufacturers. Each questionnaire included a $1 bill as an incentive, and alert postcards were mailed a few days before the survey arrived. J.D. Power and Associates received a total of [number] usable responses (a [number]% response rate).

Let’s start with the demographics of current new-bike buyers. We’ll also compare the 2003 figures with those from the first MCIS, in 1998, to identify trends.

We have all heard that riders are getting older, and that’s reflected in the statistics regarding new bike buyers. Of course, new bikes aren’t cheap and we would expect them to be purchased by older riders who have more disposable income. On the one hand we can be alarmed that more than 56% of these buyers have been riding 15 or more years, but on the other we can be glad that these older, more experienced people are likely to be safer riders, and to spend more on accessories. We can also be heartened that 16.1% of new bike buyers have been riding one year or less.

As we noticed in last year’s article, the age of those who have purchased new bikes has increased, and that trend continues this year. Through the first six years of this study, sales to riders in the 30-and-under categories have decreased from 21.6% to 15.5%. Those in the 31-60 category accounted for 74.6% of new bike purchases in 1998, and have increased to 78.5% in 2003. Sales to riders aged 61 years and older have increased from 3.8% to 6.0% in the same period.

While older riders tend to have more spending money, and buy more accessories, they will eventually leave motorcycling. That certainly doesn’t portend well for our industry. However, keep in mind that the JD Power and Associates surveys only those buying new motorcycles, and you dealers are well aware of the strength of the used market. We also know that motocross and extreme sports are enjoying great interest and attention, but the MCIS does not cover off-road nor used bikes. Therefore, while these statistics are disturbing, they do not tell the full picture of our industry.

Despite our best efforts, rider aren’t really pounding the pavement as much as we would like. Those riding 4,000 or fewer miles in 1998 made up 44.5% of new bike buyers. In 2003 they were still 45.3%. Those riding 6,000 or fewer miles have remained right at 68% over the years. Unfortunately, riding habits have not changed significantly in the past five years.

Next time:

How do new bike buyers rate their sales and service experience at the dealership from which they bought their new bike? We’ll find out in the next issue.

Headquartered in Westlake Village, California, J.D. Power and Associates is a global marketing information services firm operating in key business sectors including market research, forecasting, consulting, training and customer satisfaction. The firm’s quality and satisfaction measurements are based on responses from millions of consumers annually.


Contributing Writer Bill Stermer served as a consultant to JDPA in setting up the original MCIS, but has not been involved since.

For more information about the 2003 J.D. Power and Associates Motorcycle Competitive Information Study (MCIS) please contact Brian Beaver, Research Associate, in the Troy, Michigan office at (248) 267-6800. psb

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